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Making the Ugly Beautiful

Photographer Igor Siwanowicz is a master of his craft. He not only takes stunning images of lizards, frogs and insects, he also manages to make these often loathed creatures look like supermodels. Whether using a zoom, macro or microscope lens, his subjects seem to go from creepy crawly to downright dreamy.

His book, Animals Up Close, takes this gift one step further, by providing fascinating information about many of his subjects, combining the attractive photos seen in coffee table books with the useful facts offered in reference texts.

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Gustav Klimt at 100: Painter. Photographer. Dress Maker.
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Mental Floss has partnered with FOTO, a visual storytelling platform from Getty Images, to bring you articles featuring stunning images from Getty's archive.

The famously erotic, semi-psychedelic, sometimes gold-leafed paintings of bohemian artist Gustav Klimt once scandalized Austrian society. Today, of course, they’ve become museum-shop staples and dorm-room must-haves. The Austrian painter, who died 100 years ago, was known for his sensual portraits of women wearing shimmering, swirling dresses, but less so for the creative—and possibly romantic—partnership that brought the dresses to life.

MORE THAN COLLABORATORS?

 Gustav Klimt and Emilie Floege in a dress with floral pattern in the garden of the Oleander villa in Kammer at the Attersee lake.
Imagno/Getty Images

The dresses now so closely associated with Klimt's work were a collaboration with Emilie Louise Flöge, a Vienna native Klimt met when she was just 18. Until Klimt's death in 1918, Emilie remained a close companion and perhaps a lover, and was a groundbreaking fashion designer with a radical streak in her own right. (Pictured: Emilie and Klimt in 1910.)

THE SISTERS FLÖGE

Emilie, Helene und Pauline Floege sitting in a rowboat with Gustav Klimt.
Imagno/Getty Images

Klimt met Emilie after his brother married her sister—and then promptly died. Klimt was left to care for the widow, which allowed him to spend plenty of time with the family Flöge and young Emilie. (Pictured: The three Flöge sisters, with Emilie at the far left, and Klimt in a rowboat in 1910.)

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Emilie Louise Floege (Floge) by Gustav Klimt
Leemage/Corbis, Getty Images

Emilie began her climb in the fashion world by working as a seamstress at her sister’s dressmaking school in Vienna. In 1899, the sisters won a dressmaking competition and went on to design a dress for a widely attended exhibition. (Pictured: Emilie, as painted by Klimt in 1902.)

DESIGNING WOMAN

Emilie Floege wearing a dress
Imagno/Getty Images

Emilie, presumably in a dress of her own design, in about 1910.

UP THE FASHION LADDER

Emilie Floege In A Reform Dress Designed By Eduard Josef Wimmer-Wisgrill.
ÖNB/Imagno/Getty Images

Emilie quickly established herself as a savvy businesswoman, opening Flöge Sisters, a haute couture fashion salon in Vienna. She traveled to Paris and London, studying the work of designers like Coco Chanel and Christian Dior, among others.

WORKING TOGETHER

Hope, II by Gustav Klimt
VCG Wilson, Corbis, Getty Images

Many of the dresses that appear in Klimt's most celebrated works were created in concert with Emilie: He designed the patterns, she the fabric and cuts.

KLIMT BEHIND THE CAMERA

Emilie Floege In A Reform Dress.
Imagno/Getty Images

Klimt took many photographs of these collaborations. Emilie's designs were influenced by the early Feminist movement: They were flowing, comfortable clothes for women (no corsets!) that hung loosely from the shoulders. In this picture by Klimt from 1906, Emilie wears a dress she designed.

CLASSIC IMAGES

Emilie Floege in a reform dress.
Imagno/Getty Images

Even with referrals from Klimt, who was at this point painting portraits of Vienna's high-society women, sales of Emilie's revolutionary fashions were not brisk. Here, Emilie as photographed by Klimt in 1906 or 1907.

SKY-HIGH SALES

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II
Imagno/Getty Images

Klimt was quite successful, but no one could have predicted how sought-after his works would eventually become. "Adele Bloch-Bauer II," pictured above and one of Klimt's most famous paintings, was a portrait of the wife of a wealthy Klimt patron. The Nazis snatched it from the family home during WWII but in 2006, the work was purchased at auction for nearly $88 million. The buyer? Oprah Winfrey, who eventually sold it for a reported $150 million.

For more Klimt photos, visit FOTO.

See Also...
Paris Museum Lets You Stand Inside Your Favorite Paintings
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Mesmerizing Murmurations
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Picasso: Memorable Quotes from a Master of Modern Art

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J. Malcolm Greany, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
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An Astronomer Solves a 70-Year-Old Ansel Adams Mystery
Ansel Adams circa 1950
Ansel Adams circa 1950
J. Malcolm Greany, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Ansel Adams was a genius with a camera, but he wasn’t so great about taking notes. The famous 20th century landscape photographer did not keep careful records of the dates he took his photos, leading to some debate over the origin period of certain images, including Denali and Wonder Lake (below), taken in Denali National Park in Alaska sometime in the late 1940s.

A black-and-white photo of Denali as seen from across Wonder Lake
Denali and Wonder Lake
Collection Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

To settle a debate about when the photograph (known as Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake until the mountain's name was officially changed in 2015) was taken, Texas State University astronomer Donald Olson looked to the sky, using astronomical hints to determine the exact date, time, and location it was shot. Olson—who has solved other cultural mysteries related to topics such as Edvard Munch's paintings and Chaucer's writing using the night sky—writes about the process in his new book, Further Adventures of the Celestial Sleuth.

Adams did take some technical notes during his photography shoots, writing down the exposure time, film type, filters, and other settings used to capture the image, but he wasn’t as meticulous about the more mundane parts of the shoot, like the date. However, during his research, Olson found that another photo, Moon and Denali, was taken the night before the image in question. Because that one featured the moon, he could use it to calculate the date of both images—once he figured out where Moon and Denali was taken.

The moon hangs in the sky over Denali in a black-and-white photo
Moon and Denali
Collection Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

To do so, Olson used topographical features such as cirques, hollowed landforms carved by glaciers, that were visible in Moon and Denali to identify several areas of the park where Adams may have been working. He and his student, Ava Pope, wrote a computer program to calculate the view from each possible location along the park road Adams drove along during his trip, eventually determining the coordinates of the location where the photographer shot Moon and Denali.

He could then estimate, using the position of the waxing gibbous moon in the photo, the exact time —8:28 p.m. on July 14, 1948—that Moon and Denali was taken. Denali and Wonder Lake would have been taken the next morning, and Olson was able to calculate from the shadows along the mountain where the sun would have been in the sky, and thus, when the photo was taken.

The answer? Exactly 3:42 a.m. Central Alaska Standard Time on July 15, 1948.

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